Slamming on the breaks of the Schuyler Square Charter School's bus with her size twelve feet, Pat Rider silently chuckled as most of the students lurched forward, lunches, books, and backpacks flying through the air. Man, but she hated those little brats. Nothing gave her more pleasure than hurling around corners, not slowing in school zones and never, ever coming to a complete stop when she came to railroad crossings.
“Here we are, kiddos!” she shouted, her deep voice sounding even deeper than usual thanks to the pack of cigarettes and the large tumbler of Jack Daniels she’d had before work that morning. She watched contemptuously as the students slowly filed off the bus, all of them looking a little worse for wear thanks to her complete lack of driving skills.
“Have a nice day,” she chirped as the last student hopped down the steps. They were, without exception, lazy, rude, and undeserving to be in a school, other than a reform school. So it was perfect that they attended SSCS. Pat had never in her life witnessed a school that had as little educating going on than she saw at that school. The whole set up made Pat sick. Running chapped hands over her crew cut, she frowned as she thought about SSCS. The charter school idea, on paper, might sound great but in reality it sucked. Pat knew that the school could be doing a better job. Hell, she could probably be a better teacher than the sorry lot SSCS employed and she’d dropped out of school after the ninth grade. Schuyler Square Charter School simply didn’t deserve to be using the taxpayer’s money to keep its doors open.
And it was all because of that fathead Dick Jergeson.
Pat felt her blood pressure spike the moment she thought about Dick. He was such a bully, so patently unfair, and so damn hardhearted when it came to things like giving Pat a raise or even a day off to do something important, like attend that seance her aunt had last year to reach her Uncle Andy. Dick had laughed in her face when she'd asked for the day off and suggested that instead she use a Ouija board--like that could take the place of a seance! Dick knew absolutely nothing about anything.
Fuming, Pat stared through the fly-specked windshield. SSCS would be so much better off if Dick just vanished. Then they could get an administrator who knew what he was doing, or who at least knew how to run the transportation department, of which Pat was the only member. Nothing infuriated her more than to have to go to Dick when she had a problem with the bus. To stand in front of him and try to explain how the bus was riding funny or that she thought it was time to get the engine overhauled, well, it was like standing in front of a bull and waving a red flag. No, it was more like standing in front of a bull and being the red flag.
“What do you mean the engine is running ‘funny’?” Dick would demand. “How the hell am I supposed to know what you mean when you say it sounds ‘funny’? Can’t you at least attempt to be a little more descriptive? Is the engine knocking, is that what you mean by ‘funny’? Is one side bouncing more than the other? Is there oil coming out of the muffler? Do you have any idea of how asinine you sound when you tell me something like that? You sound like a typical, stupid, non-mechanical female and that surprises me since I’ve never been quite sure what sex you are, Pat.”
Even Pat, who was well known for her elephant thick hide, was hurt by such nasty remarks. And there was really no reason for Dick to be so mean to her. It wasn’t like she wanted to sleep with the man, although Pat knew darn well that just about every other female in
already had. Cannonball Falls
She often pondered just why Dick seemed to get his kicks out of humiliating her. What had she ever done to him other than work for the man?
That’s it. He gets his kicks out of turning the screws on the people who work for him. Just look at how he treats Lucy.
Everyone knew how rotten Dick treated that poor girl. Just like everyone suspected that Lucy's son was really Dick’s kid. Pat shook her steel grey head. She didn’t know how Lucy managed to work for him. Then again, Lucy seemed pretty good at holding her own. Pat imagined that out of the entire staff, Lucy would be the happiest to see Dick drop dead.
A sharp rap on the side window interrupted her musings. “Do you plan on sitting on your fat butt all day long?” Dick asked. “Don’t you think it might be a good idea to take the damn bus back to the garage where it belongs?”
Instantly, Pat felt her blood pressure skyrocket even higher. Reaching for the door handle, she pulled it back so that the door swung open. Dick leaned his head in and sniffed loudly. “Pat,” he snarled, “have you been drinking again?”
“Of course not,” Pat lied.
“Then why does this bus smell like the inside of a pint of Jack Daniels?”
“It must be one of the kids. You know how they are, Dick—“
“Yeah, I know exactly how they are and seven o’clock in the morning is a little early, even for them. Pat, I’m giving you one final warning. If I ever smell liquor even near you again, your ass is grass. Do you hear me? I have my standards, you know. These kids are ultimately my responsibility. I am not going to allow you to mess this up for me.”
“Yes, Dick,” Pat sniveled. She took a deep breath and felt her heart pounding under the blue and red flannel shirt she was wearing. As much as she hated to do it, she had to ask Dick for a favor. “I was wondering if you’d mind if I took tomorrow off.”
Dick stared at her. “Why do you need the day off?”
“I have a doctor’s appointment,” Pat began. She didn’t but she wasn’t about to tell Dick that she wanted the day off to go to another seance, this one to reach her cousin Pete who had died in a bizarre surfing accident precisely twenty seven years earlier. Pat was pretty sure that if she could get in touch with Pete he'd tip her off on the winning lottery number's for Saturday's drawing and she could really use the cash.
“Reschedule it,” Dick ordered.
“I can’t. I’m having a test done.” Pat floundered for a plausible excuse. “The doctor thinks I might have a brain tumor.”
Dick stared at her. “Are you shitting me?”
“No,” Pat insisted. Was she dreaming or was there actually a ray of pity in Dick’s cold eyes? “I’ve been having these awful headaches—“
“Are you sure they aren’t hangovers?”
“I’m positive. I haven’t had a hangover in years.” That was undoubtedly due to the fact that she hadn’t been sober in years but Pat didn’t elaborate.
“A brain tumor, geez.” The worried look on Dick’s face thrilled Pat. The thrill faded with his next comment. “Who the hell will drive if you have a brain tumor?”
“Can’t Jack drive? He has a bus driver’s license.”
Dick shook his head. “Jack got busted on a DUI last weekend. They took his license away.”
“I didn’t hear about that,” Pat said.
“I suppose I could drive,” Dick said, his voice darkening.
“Just for tomorrow,” Pat quickly told him. “It’s probably not a brain tumor. It’s probably something else, like an internal pimple or something like that.”
Dourly, Dick turned away, muttering as he headed back for the school. Pat wasn’t positive but she was fairly certain that he was calling her an internal pimple.
Looking up from her computer, Lucy saw Pat lumbering down the hall toward her office. Perfect, just perfect. The last thing she needed was to be stuck listening to how abused poor Pat was by everyone else in the entire universe. Lucy generally liked most of the people she knew but from the moment she’d met Pat Rider, she’d instantly loathed the woman. There was something creepy about Pat, especially when she stood too close to Lucy or made a point of hugging her whenever she saw her out and about in
It was like being hugged by a grizzly bear with bad breath. Cannonball Falls
Maybe if I don’t respond to her she’ll go away. Yeah, right. Pat never took a hint, a personality quirk that she shared with the rest of the staff. “Hi, Lucy,” Pat said.
“Hi Pat.” Lucy kept her eyes glued on her computer screen.
“Boy, Dick sure is in a bad mood today.”
Lucy kept silent.
“He came out and chewed my ass but good. What’s the matter with him, anyway? He doesn’t seem to remember that I won an award last summer for Most Years In Service at the National Training Convention I went to. He also seems to forget that I have a lot of health challenges. It’s not easy to drive with vision in only one eye, you know. I just don’t understand Dan,” Pat continued. “He acts like he owns this school and he doesn’t. It’s a public school, paid for with tax dollars.”
Lucy looked up in amazement. She didn’t realize that Pat knew how public schools were funded. Pat, with her weeble-esque figure looked especially squatty that day. She also looked half in the bag. “I’m in the middle of something,” Lucy announced. “I’m sorry, Pat, but I really can’t chat right now.”
Pat pursed her lips and Lucy knew she’d made a tactical error. Now she’d have to spend twenty minutes cajoling Pat out of the pouts when she could have spent ten minutes listening to her. Something inside Lucy recoiled. Too bad. I do have work to do and I don’t have time to sit her and tell her how wonderful she is and how we couldn’t get along without her.
Lucy stiffened her resolve. The secretary had told her that very morning how she’d fielded two more telephone calls from irate
citizens about Pat’s driving. And
then there was that rumor floating around that Pat let one of the students
drive the bus to a field trip up in the cities so she could take a nap in the
back. Lucy couldn’t pin down any of the
little delinquents to tell her about it but she strongly suspected that that
Pat was bribing the students with booze and cigarettes. Cannonball Falls
“I’m sorry if I’m bothering you,” Pat huffed.
“You aren’t bothering me,” Lucy replied coolly. “But I am busy. You’ll have to excuse me.”
“No, excuse me,” Pat snapped. She turned and stomped out of Lucy’s office leaving a trail of Brut and Jack Daniels behind her.
“Was that Pat?” Dick asked from his office.
“Does she look all right to you?”
“She looks like she always does,” Lucy replied.
“She told me she might have a brain tumor. Can you believe that? If she croaks on us, that means I’m going to have to drive the damn bus for the rest of the year and there goes my long weekend camping up north. I think that sucks.”
“A brain tumor!” Guilt instantly filled Lucy. “That must be what she wanted to talk about. Oh, I should have listened to her. I feel terrible.”
Dick appeared in the doorway, his arms crossed in front of him. “The trouble with you,” he announced, “is that you always feel sorry for the wrong people.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dick leered at her. “You might feel sorry for me. I have needs to, you know.”
Lucy managed not to throw her computer at Dick. “Pat just told us that she might have a brain tumor and you’re coming on to me? Don’t you have any compassion at all?”
“Not for that lardo,” Dick grunted. “If she does have a brain tumor, which I seriously doubt, I’m sure she gave it to herself. She strikes me as the type who’d keep a microwave going 24/7. Probably has one next to her bed just in case she gets hungry in the middle of the night so she can nuke a frozen burrito or a Hungry Man dinner. You know what those rays will do to you. Zap, zap, zap all day long and you’ve got a nice, big tumor growing where your brain should be.”
Lucy turned away from Dick, sickened by the thought that such a degenerate was the father of her child.
“I’m here if you change your mind,” Dick told her.
“Don't hold your breath,” Lucy said. If anyone deserved a brain tumor, it had to be Dick,